More on Cmaps

Back in the middle of May, I wrote this post, which really was a reference to Derek’s blog about CMaps tools, which is a free idea mapping software. I still haven’t had a chance to monkey around with it, but this morning, I came across this article in the LA Times, “Fla. Concept Mapping Idea Going Global.” They’re talking about using concept maps and this software in applications that aren’t writing courses, but it still sounds pretty interesting:

NASA and the Defense Department paid for most of the research. The military uses concept mapping both as a learning tool and to help unlock information from the minds of scientists for use by future generations, said Alberto Canas, the institute’s associate director and leading Cmap researcher.

“Having a tool that allows the scientist to express that (knowledge) is no different than trying to figure out what little Johnny knows about volcanoes in the fifth grade,” Canas said.

Cmaps can be used to assess student knowledge, encourage thinking and problem solving instead of rote learning, organize information for writing projects and help teachers write new curricula.

The “going global” part comes from the adoption of this software by the Panamanian educational system. As an aside/dig at the way education tends to work in the U.S., Alberto Canas, the institute’s associate director and leading Cmap researcher, pointed out the problem of “just using” this software here: “‘If you’re in Italy and you’re in a school and you like the software, you download it and install it,’ he said. In the United States, teachers typically must go through technology coordinators and other bureaucratic hoops….”

Part of me is still trying to get a hold of the “big deal” here; haven’t people been making “idea maps” with pen and paper for a long time now? On the other hand, these things can be linked to on a web site and can be worked on collaboratively too. So maybe I ought to check this out sooner than later….

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